High street retail sales struggle

Canny shoppers and freak weather resulted in the worst Christmas trading figures on the high street since 2008, figures out today reveal.

BDO’s monthly High Street Sales Tracker (HSST) recorded a 5.3 per cent drop in year-on-year sales for December – the worst monthly results since December 2008.

Sales of lifestyle goods were down 3.7 per cent year-on-year and fashion stores saw like-for-like sales drop of 5.4 per cent.

Homewares rallied with 16 per cent growth, but BDO’s HSST index for non-store sales, while positive, grew at the slowest rate since BDO’s records for non-store began in 2010 (+7.5 per cent). The monthly figures could have been worse but for a rally between Christmas Eve and Boxing Day, but even this couldn’t stop the last week of the month dropping 2.6 per cent compared to the same week last year.

The warmest December since records began put a severe dent in sales of winter fashion lines, but a combination of record-breaking rainfall and reduced discounting also deterred shoppers in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

Sophie Michael, Head of Retail and Wholesale at BDO, said: "Many retailers had held out for a last minute sales Christmas rush that never arrived." "People have been much savvier about bargain hunting this year," she explained. "After Black Friday, many shoppers seem to have sat tight and waited for the sales to start on 25 December. Early indications are that activity in January strengthened, so retailers will be hoping they can claw back some ground in the traditional January sales period, but it’s clear the overall picture is one of reduced spending." 

Yesterday, Barclaycard said online spend was the driver behind Christmas trading.

Garden centres have reported generally positive results.

Christmas results showed a need for more omni-channel trading, say garden centre consultants.

Homebase's results due next week will give an indication of DIY/garden centre trade. 

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